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Friendship was bond of dispatching duo

October 10, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN

marlob@herald-mail.com

Friendship can take many forms but where "the dynamic duo" of Arlene Hammond and Anita Bussard are concerned, their enjoyment of each other's company is one for the books.

The two veteran Maryland State Police dispatchers retired together this summer with a combined 621/2 years of state employment. The kicker is that Hammond held on for 21/2 years after reaching the 30-year mark so the duo could retire at the same time.

"An instant friendship began and survived the shift work, stress and chaos," Bussard said.

When they first met as police dispatchers in 1988, Hammond had already been working at the Hagerstown barrack since 1976. Bussard started her state police dispatching career in Rockville in 1984 and moved first to Frederick in 1986 and finally to Hagerstown two years later.

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The friendship that was born that year has endured.

"I was really ready to go 21/2 years ago but I stayed for Anita," Hammond said.

Actually, the pair was ready to continue in their dispatching careers even longer but a hoped-for reassignment for both to the more modern, computerized Frederick operation wasn't in the cards.

Jokingly, Hammond and Bussard think maybe they were sisters in a previous life even though on the surface, they seem to have few similarities.

Raised in rural Washington County, Bussard, 49, describes herself as an extrovert who likes country and bluegrass music. The quiet one, Hammond, 50, came from Baltimore and leans toward rock and easy listening music.

Hammond started her work with the State of Maryland in Baltimore with the Department of Parole and Probation in 1972. Bussard's beginnings were at the old Department of Motor Vehicle's office on Franklin Street in 1975.

After a little shifting around, fate brought them together under the same roof 17 years ago.

"We go to lunch together and even take classes together at Hagerstown Community College," Hammond said.

And then there are the road trips. From time to time, they get in a car and visit friends, family and see the sights. A recent trip took them to Boyd's Bear Country in Gettysburg, Pa.

"I keep trying to drive south toward Tennessee while Arlene wants to go west," Bussard said.

Memories of their days and nights at their dispatching duties include crises, occasional times when nothing was happening and even some funny and enjoyable moments.

"At Christmas time, we used to do the announcements of sightings of Santa's sleigh over the air," Hammond said. But unfortunately the Federal Communications Commission cracked down on those transmissions years ago.

Barrack meetings were often held on Sunday mornings and included the preparation of a hearty breakfast downstairs in the barrack kitchen. "We all got to know each other as people, which is important when you need to trust those people in a crisis," Hammond said.

Bussard said many people see TV's idea of what police dispatchers do and think they spend their time doing one thing at a time. "They don't understand the intensity of our jobs," she said.

Dispatchers routinely handle two 911 telephone lines, the regular telephone, CB transmissions from truckers, radio messages from on-duty troopers, visitors to the front desk, radio dispatches from other barracks, and a teletype machine on which has to be typed, within 10 minutes of a call, the news of serious crime to inform police departments elsewhere.

After training and a lot of experience, Bussard and Hammond said they worked fluently and efficiently together.

The mother of three, Hammond said she is looking for a job after taking it easy since July 1.

Bussard, who has one child, wants to spend some time with her parents who supported her and helped her throughout her life.

"When everything is wrong in the world, true and sincere friendship remains to be a treasure," Bussard said.

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